Drive across the postindustrial Midwest and Northeast—from Detroit to Bethlehem to Troy to Hartford to rural New Hampshire to the mountains of Maine—and you will be struck again and again by the same eerie scenes. Shuttered downtowns. Opioid abuse and its concentric ravages of addiction. Failing schools; failed parents. Decayed factories cast as Sphinx-like megaliths. Bridges, tunnels, and roads that haven’t been improved in decades. Hardworking people whose only usefulness to the “new economy” was as consumers of worthless junk made in even lower wage countries, and, worse, as obedient believers of an endless whirl of television and technological echo chambers emanating from cities where only the affluent could dream of living.
Even by 2016, the American carnage still seemed invisible to a self-obsessed elite—the same elite who had for decades sold neoliberalism and globalism as inevitable natural forces while allowing a vast and growing managerial class to deliberately exploit already-rising inequalities in education and capital to inch toward statist ends: suppression of the labor market, population control, and a permanent underclass denied even the satisfaction of a middle class living. Is a government that fails its people and blames forces beyond itself a government at all?
In the historic 2016 presidential election, America’s forgotten men and women rejected the dual prongs of fashionable establishment liberalism: apocalyptic theology and abstract identity politics.
On the first point, Donald Trump came to represent the sum of all fears, the zero point at which every irrational, irresponsible, and nonsensical strand of doomsaying could be braided into one desperate skein. Take Junk Science Purveyor Stephen Hawking’s recent claim that Trump—just one lone meatloaf-eating human—had singlehandedly instigated the Literal End Of The World:
“We are close to the tipping point where global warming becomes irreversible. Trump’s action could push the Earth over the brink, to become like Venus, with a temperature of two hundred and fifty degrees, and raining sulphuric acid. . . . By denying the evidence for climate change, and pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, Donald Trump will cause avoidable environmental damage to our beautiful planet, endangering the natural world, for us and our children.”
The second point rung false as well. When Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders spoke directly to a class consciousness that could unite the 99%—and was summarily cheated of the nomination by a mind-bogglingly-corrupt Democratic party—voters channeled their energies away from the divide-and-conquer marketing of superficial overtures to ethnicity and sexuality in favor of a much-maligned movement that has paradoxically reinvigorated the simple idea of American patriotism. . . despite a rising generation that still seems to misunderstand the concept of patriotism itself.
Average Americans had at eye-level seen enough of the rise and fall of postwar generations to understand that something had been slowly taken from them. Globalism’s end result wasn’t just a war on economic self-rule—it was a war on meaning. It was a splitting of the fundamental family unit. It was the anguish of towns hollowed out when factories were shuttered. It was the anguish of uselessness which becomes the anguish of abuse.
And rhetoric aside, the numbers don’t lie:
“Take away California, which had a 3.4-million vote margin for Clinton, and New York, which had a 1.5-million vote margin for her, Donald Trump won the remaining 48 states by 3.2 million votes.”
Controlling for illegal immigrants’ votes, and holding aside the bastions of elite managerial control like New York and San Francisco that had for decades rerouted capital out of local hands, 2016 doesn’t look at all like a close call—it looks like a landslide, at least as far as the war of ideas is concerned.
It’s just a landslide the establishment still hasn’t understood.